JOSEPH FELS' REPLY
Dean, ________ Theological School.
"Replying to your communication,
I am at a loss to know where you have read of my 'acts of charity and philanthropy.'
I am not a philanthropist and give nothing to charity.
"When you say I am not of your
'faith' I suppose you mean of your creed. Let me state my faith and we can
see wherein we differ.
"I believe in the Fatherhood of God, and therefore in the
Brotherhood of Man. By 'Man' I mean all men. So far I suppose we agree?
"I believe that the Creator freely gave the earth to all
of his children that all may have equal rights to its use. Do you agree
"I believe that the injunction 'in the sweat of thy brow
shalt thou eat bread' necessarily implied 'Thou shalt not eat bread in
the sweat of thy brother's brow.' Do you agree?
"I believe that all are violating the Divine Law who live
in idleness on wealth produced by others, since they eat bread in the sweat
of their brothers' brows. Do you agree to that?
"I believe that no man shall have power to take wealth
he has not produced or earned unless freely given to him by the producer.
Do you agree?
"I believe that Brotherhood requires giving an equivalent
for every service received from a brother. Do you agree?
"I believe it is blasphemous to assert or insinuate that
God has condemned some of His children to hopeless poverty and to the crimes,
want, and misery resulting therefrom, and has at the same time awarded to
others lives of ease and luxury without labor. Do you agree?
"I believe that involuntary poverty and involuntary idleness
are unnatural and are due to the denial by some of the rights of others
to use freely the gifts of God to all. Do you agree?
"Since labor products are needed
to sustain life and since labor must be applied to land in order to produce,
I believe that every child comes into life with Divine permission to use
land without the consent of any other child of God. Do you agree?
"Where men congregate in organized
society, land has a value apart from the value of things produced by labor;
as population and industry increase, the value of land increases, but the
value of labor products does not. That increase in land value is community-made
value. Inasmuch as your power to labor is a gift of God all the wealth produced
by your labor is yours, and no man nor collection of men has a right to
take any of it from you. Do you agree to that?
"I believe the community-made
value of land belongs to the community just as the wealth produced by you
belongs to you. Do you agree to that?
"Therefore I believe that the
fundamental evil is the iniquitous system under which men are permitted
to put in their pockets--confiscate, in fact-the community-made values of
land, while organized society confiscates for public purposes a part of the
wealth created by individuals. Do you agree to that?
"Using a concrete illustration:
I own in the city of Philadelphia 11% acres of land, for which I paid $32,500
a few years ago. On account of increase of population and industry in Philadelphia
that land is now worth about $125,000. I have expended no labor or money
on it. So I have done nothing to cause that increase of $92,500 in a few
years. My fellow-citizens in Philadelphia created it, and I believe it therefore
belongs to them, not to me. I believe that the man-made law which gives
to me and other landlords values we have not created is a violation of Divine
Law. I believe that Justice demands that these community-made values be
taken by the community for common purposes instead of taxing enterprise and
industry. Do you agree?
"I am using all the money I
have as best I know how to abolish the Hell of civilization, which is want
and fear of want. I am using it to bring in the will of our Father, to establish
the Brotherhood of Man by giving each of my brothers an equal opportunity
to have and use the gifts of our Father. Am I misusing that money? If so,
why and how?
"If my teaching is wrong and
contrary to true religion I want to know it. I take it that if you are not
teaching religion in its fullness you wish to know it. Am I correct? "What
I teach may be criticized as mixing politics with religion, but can I be
successfully attacked on that ground?
Politics, in its true meaning,
is the science of government. Is government a thing entirely apart from
religion or from righteousness? Is not just government founded upon right
"If my religion is true, if
it accords with the basic principles of morality taught by Jesus, how is
it possible for your school to teach Christianity when it ignores the science
of government? Or is your school so different from other theological schools
that it does teach the fundamental moral principles upon which men associate
themselves in organized government?
"Do you question the relation
between taxation and righteousness? Let us see. If government is a natural
growth, then surely God's natural law provides food and sustenance for government
as that food is needed; for where in nature do we find a creature coming
into the world without timely provision of natural food for it? It is in
our system of taxation that we find the most emphatic denial of the Fatherhood
of God and the Brotherhood of Man, because, first, in order to meet our
common needs, we take from individuals what does not belong to us in common;
second, we permit individuals to take for themselves what does belong to
us in common; and thus, third, under the pretext of taxation for public
purposes, we have established a system that permits some men to tax other
men for private profit.
"Does not that violate the natural,
the Divine Law?
Does it not surely beget wolfish
greed on the one hand and gaunt poverty on the other? Does it not surely
breed millionaires on one end of the social scale and tramps on the other
end? Has it not brought into civilization a hell of which the savage can
have no conception? Could any better system be devised for convincing men
that God is the father of a few and the stepfather of the many? Is not that
destructive of the sentiment of Brotherhood? With such a condition, how is
it possible for men in masses to obey the new commandment 'that ye love one
What could more surely thrust
men apart, what could more surely divide them into warring classes?
"You say that you need money
to train young men and fit them 'to carry the Word to the heathen of foreign
lands, and thus be instrumental in dispelling the darkness that reigns among
millions of our brethren in other lands. That is a noble purpose. But what
message would your school give to these young men to take to the benighted
brethren that would stand a fire of questions from an intelligent heathen?
Suppose, for example, your school sends to some pagan country an intelligent
young man who delivers his message; and suppose an intelligent man in the
audience asks these questions:
"You come from America, where
your religion has been taught for about 400 years, where every small village
has one of your churches, and the great cities have scores upon scores.
Do all the people attend these churches? Do your countrymen generally practice
what you preach to us?
Does even a considerable minority
practice it? Are your laws consistent with or contrary to the religion you
preach to us? Are your cities clean morally in proportion to the number
of churches they contain? Do your courts administer justice impartially between
man and man, between rich and poor? Is it as easy for a poor man as for
a rich one to get his rights in your courts?
"You have great and powerful
millionaires. How did they get their money? Have they more influence than
the poor in your churches and in your Congress, your legislatures and courts?
Do they, in dealing with their employees, observe the moral law that the
laborer is worthy of his hire? Do they treat their hired laborers as brothers?
Do they put children to work
who ought to be at play or at school?
"Do your churches protest when
the militia is called out during a strike, or do they forget at such times
what Jesus said about the use of the sword?
After four centuries of teaching
and preaching of your religion in your country, has crime disappeared or
diminished, have you less use for jails and fewer and fewer of your people
driven into madhouses, and have suicides decreased? Is there a larger proportion
of crime among Jews and Infidels than among those who profess the Christian
"What answers would your missionary
return to these questions? How would you answer them?
"I do not attack Christianity.
The foregoing questions are not intended as criticism of the great moral
code underlying Christianity, but as criticism of the men who preach but
do not practice that code. You may accuse me of 'unbelief,' but that is no
answer. If you have any criticism to make of me or any accusation to bring
against me, answer the questions first. Give me straight answers, and I will
give straight answers to any questions you may put to me. My contention is
that the code of morals taught by Jesus is a code of justice, of right living
and right doing; that the simple code of morals taught to the fishermen of
Galilee by the Carpenter of Nazareth is all-embracing and all-sufficient for
our social life.
"I shall be glad to contribute
to your theological school or to any other that gets down to the bedrock
of that social and moral code, accepts it in its fullness, and trains its
students to teach and preach it regardless of the raiment, the bank accounts,
the social standing or political position of the persons in the pews.
"Very truly yours,
(Signed) "Joseph Fels."